Whatever it is—
home or hospital,
graveyard or asylum,
government facility or great
tract of land slowly ceding
itself back to dust—
its church is a low-slung brick box
with a single window,
a white piece of plywood
labeled chapel, and a locked door.
Whatever it is,
my mother and I ride along
its red roads in February
with the windows down:
this place looks lived in,
that one has stiff, gray curtains
in the window, a roof caving in.
We see a small group moving
in the channel between one building
and the next, bowing in an absent wind.
He is in a wheelchair, she is stumbling,
pushing a pram from decades ago,
coal black and wrong. There is no way
it holds a baby. Behind them,
a few more shuffling bodies in coats.
I am my own kind of damaged there,
looking out the right-hand window.
Spastic, palsied and off-balance,
I’m taking crooked notes about this place.
It is the land where he is buried, the place
she spent her whole life, the room
where they made it impossible
for her to have children.
It is the colony where he did not learn to read,
but did paint every single slat of fence
you see that shade of yellow.
The place she didn’t want to leave
when she finally could,
because she’d lived there fifty years,
and couldn’t drive a car, or remember
the outside, or trust anyone
to touch her gently.
And, by some accident of luck or grace,
some window less than half a century wide,
it is my backyard but not what happened
to my body—
from The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and FeeblemindedFind it in the library
Copyright © Persea Books 2017
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